New YouTube Series Travel People: Living Authentic Lives, Finding Kindred Spirits, Fulfilling Dreams Episode 1: Spain

Watch Episode One here or skip to sections which interest you marked below.

A lot of us are getting through sheltering at home by meeting online with old friends.  I thank God for technology that bashes through borders during a pandemic. Looking back at how we’ve navigated change in the past can transform how we handle new norms in the present and future. Being grounded for many has been grounding–even if what we know about an invisible enemy seems to shift every hour. In Nashville we’ve been saturated with spring storms and power outages. Worldwide we’re assaulted with staggering statistics of death tolls and unemployment. So I’m wondering…

How are we doing? Reassessing life’s meaning? Seeking a new job or career? A new life? Needing to reinvent ourselves again?

I’d planned to start a podcast this summer but decided to first launch as a YOUTUBE series since we’re home on computers more than commuting to work or traveling. Welcome to this first episode where we’ll travel to Spain and meet my friend, Monica Fernandez Chantada, master of reinvention and growth, who shows us how she and her country are dealing with months of pandemic lockdown, social distancing, and unemployment. Her journey from a Corporate Human Resources position to International Teacher to Camino de Santiago Tour Guide to Life Coach will inspire you as she shares coping tips, travel go-to places, and the beauty of her backyard. She explains how saying “Yes!” changes challenges into adventures and offers to teach you Spanish online.

Moni will walk us through her province of Galicia, Bucket List worthy for its mountains, coast, Celtic ruins, wine, and wonderful people. Through here pilgrims since the 9th century have traveled to the Cathedral in Santiago on the Camino or St. James’ Way–backdrop for the Martin Sheen movie (trailer below). We’ve walked three continents together and I’m still inspired by her journey and spirit. I think you will be, too.

If you’re planning a getaway for when the coast is clear and up for a Camino or stay in Galicia, check out options at Moni’s company, Spanish Steps, and/or stay in her home in Vigo where she’s a Superhost here.

0.00-3.30 “Travel People” Series Intro. “Come Run Away with Me” by Carole Edwards https://www.reverbnation.com/caroleed… Photography https://cindymccain.photoshelter.com/… and courtesy of Monica Fernandez Chantada

4:15 Meet Moni in beautiful Vigo and learn how Spaniards do Lockdown (started March 14)

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6:20 Memories of Madrid: Attention chocolate lovers!

7:05 How Moni and I met in Nashville, Tennessee

9:30 Moni’s US Teaching and Traveling; Alaska, Peru, Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas

11:00 The Wanderer Returns Home to Vigo

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11:30 How to Reinvent a Life (Again) From Journalism to Working in Corporate Human Resources Job to Teaching Spanish is the US to Camino de Santiago Guide “I always say ‘Yes!’ Every challenge, I take it!”–Moni

13:30 Effect of Pandemic on 2020 Camino Tourism

14:00 Moni’s Call to Another Life, Spanish Financial Crisis, Realizing in India what she really wanted

15:30 Moni’s Mom’s Advice

17:20 Pandemic Effects on Finances and Family

20:00 How Emergency State in Spain differs from US Lockdown

22:30 Dealing with Solitary Confinement after divorce

25:43 Beautiful Vigo–My visit with Moni and Ale on St. John’sEve/Summer Solstice

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26:28 Meeting Moni in Porto, Portugal

27:28 Cies Islands–one of my favorite travel experiences ever

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28:30 Spain Photos from Other Journeys

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29:37 Eating and Socializing in Spain

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32:15 Toledo –Day trip from Madrid

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34:40 Camino options based on distance, routes, fitness, purpose

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40:08 Photos of Coastal Camino through Galicia; Pilgrims; Goals

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45:40 My journeys with Moni: Morocco and Andalusia, Spain

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48:40 Oregon

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49:22 Moni’s Other Travels for Growth ; Backpacking at 37 in India

50:20 Travel Deals Now

52:30 Moni’s Call; Nashville, Kenya, Japan, New Zealand. What’s on her Bucket List now Moni: “I’m rich because I have freedom.”

1:03:00 Healthcare in Spain

1:05:00 What Moni would tell a 20something daughter or her 20something self

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1:06:00 Join Spain’s 8 PM Lockdown Celebration of Solidarity and Spirit

1:09:001:10:00 Closing Contact Moni: mfchantada@yahoo.es or Cindy: cindylmccain1@gmail.com More on Portugal and Spain:

StyleBlueprint Feature on Our Trip to Portugal and Spain

Southern Girl Gone Global Posts on Spain

She Knows Guide to Madrid

 

And for some more Good News, Thank you Feedspot for naming SouthernGirlGoneGlobal.com a Top 30 Baby Boomer Travel Blog or Website to Watch in 2020 !

Las Terrenas: DR Destination for Business and Pleasure

When I told US friends I was moving to The Dominican Republic, several said they’d vacationed there and loved it.  Most, like many of my coworkers and school community, enjoyed seclusion at Punta Cana’s resorts where they received five-star treatment.  I get it; I loved this stay at Barcelo Bavaro Grand Resort last fall.  Perfection…or at least one version of it.  But like my friend from home, Sara, who said she had wanted to see the “real DR,” I also understand why many local friends love the Samana area for adventure and authenticity.  I especially like Las Terrenas because of its “mom and pop” properties–private apartments and beach bars I remember from my childhood summers in Florida.

I love the laid back vibe of the province of Samana and will be forever grateful for the good times spent there with friends —horseback riding, swimming in a waterfall, drinking pina coladas on a small island off the main island, and whale watching in Samana Bay. I’ve seen couples enjoying different stages of life together there, too–newlyweds, retirees, and recently a pair from Canada who decided to pack up, move south, start a beach business, and live the dream.

I’ve always been fascinated with expats reinventing their lives in faraway places,  like folks I met in Marrakesh like Aussie Alexandra featured on this blog who are doing just that.   Likewise, Samana has enticed many from North America and Europe to move to the Caribbean.

Something pulls people here–even if just for a weekend.  Anyone who travels regularly from Santo Domingo knows the thrill of coming around this curve, parking on the roadside lookout point, and thinking I’ve arrived. Paradise pops in Renoir-rich blue and green until sunset softens the sky with Monet-muted purples and pinks.  This place definitely leaves an impression.

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Riding through the province of Samana is also colorful.   Mountain homes teeter on cliffs and balance above deep ditches while motorcycles and cars careen around curves.

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Last January I loved the villa  where my friends were married and vowed to stay in such a place near the hub of town on my next trip.   I had instead chosen an all- inclusive  in El Portillo because I’d snagged a Daily Deal on Booking.com.   I looked forward to pondering possibilities for the new year and not having to decide where to eat or what to cook sounded relaxing.

I left Nashville on a redeye flight after the holidays, had a layover in Miami, then a three-hour bus ride from the Santo Domingo airport.   Seventeen hours later, I was excited to finally drop my bag in the room and head for the fridge.  I’d planned to grab a beer, order room service, and take a hot bath in the Jacuzzi, but the fridge was empty, room service was not included, and the bath jets were dead.  When I went to the terrace to regroup before making the trek back to the front desk, the sliding glass door’s lock fell to the floor.  Two days and multiple hikes to the front desk later, I was moved to a room where everything but the safe worked.  It was fixed a day later.  But on the very bright side–where I like to focus–the weather was perfect, and I loved dancing/exercising at the pool with fun instructors, great music, and guests from Europe.  Hearing French, German, Italian, and Spanish on the beach was sweet as was eating every meal on the water, Brazilian steak night, the Crème brûlée, and the French man who sang while couples danced in the dark (see video at bottom).

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Winter weather in the DR is amazing.  Sunny, mostly dry, breezy and low humidity compared to the rest of the year.

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My next trip to Las Terrenas was in mid-March and amazing.  Thanks to Sana we had a private villa, Casa Anna, with a pool she found on AirBnB; Italian owners, Allesandra and her husband , greeted us when we arrived.   The perfect location, it is in a quiet neighbourhood just a five minute walk to the fisherman’s village, Pueblo de Los Pescadores, the town’s pulse where locals, expats, and tourists shoot pool, watch games, listen to live music, eat, drink and are merry.  We started the weekend with dinner there; I had a whole fried fish and a mojito as lights blinked along the shore like fireflies and water lapped the shore near our feet.

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Steve and Sana

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The next morning we had coffee with the hummingbirds on the bungalow’s covered porch, then went looking for an American-sized breakfast on the beach. We found it at One Love Surf Shack.  Owners, Barry and Chef Kari, served bacon, eggs, toast, and  rosemary potatoes (delicious).  Barry joked if we were looking for granola and yogurt we’d come to the wrong place.  I enjoyed every bite but was too full to join the three generations of ladies doing  Zumba on the beach beside us.  Barry said to come back for Happy Hour, their signature burgers, and open mic night.

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Backyard Blooms

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Chillin’ with Cava and Fresh-Squeezed Passion Fruit at One Love

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Barry and Kari, owners of One Love Surf Shack

The Canadian couple scouted locations around the world to open their restaurant:   Mexico, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands,  France,  Thailand,  Panama,  England, Indonesia, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hawaii.  Why did they choose the DR?

“Health care, title to own the property, exchange rates, tax treaties (getting their retirement money from Canada), basic amenities and infrastructure as opposed to ‘nice to have’ things which we placed on the bottom of the list. We tried to stay away from the ‘la-la’ happy things and focus on daily reality basic fundamentals when making our decision.”

It seems they made a great call… maybe even got it all… judging from the jovial crowd of back-slapping regulars reminiscent of buds who gathered every night at the bar Cheers. We watched the US play the DR in baseball.  There was a whole lot of happy going on.

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I’ll be leaving the island in June but will maybe return one day with a dance partner like these guys at El Portillo.  Sana says she’d like to stay here with Steve and sell coconuts on the beach.  No doubt business in Las Terennas will be booming.